The liberal war on climate dissenters

smokingFrom The Week:

About 20 Democratic attorneys general have launched a campaign to go after ExxonMobil and other “corporate polluters” for allegedly disseminating “false” information about global warming. What did the Democratic Party do? Mock this campaign? No. Denounce it? Nope. Tell them to knock it off? Of course not. Instead, the Dems made this stance an official plank in their party platform, pledging to use the “Department of Justice to investigate alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”

Eco-warriors claim to have internal memos that prove that ExxonMobil knew as far back as 1977, well before global warming achieved any sense of true public urgency, that doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide would produce a 2 to 3 degrees centigrade rise in global temperature. Liberals also claim that the company internally debated the impact of warming on its Arctic operations as far back as the early 1990s. But just like tobacco companies kept publicly denying the link between smoking and lung cancer even though they knew the truth, Exxon spent $30 million over the years to fund global warming “denialism” and stop action on climate change.

These claims are overblown at best.

First of all, comparing tobacco to fossil fuels is not just absurd, but malicious, given that smoking actually directly kills smokers. Now before you argue that global warming might one day kill people too, remember that fossil fuel is a source of cheap power without which countless millions of poor people, especially in Third World countries, would perish here and now, not in some distant future when the Earth heats up.

As for those so-called smoking gun memos, they were mere speculations that repeatedly and correctly emphasized the deep uncertainties in climate science at the time. And when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change definitively declared in 2006 that the observed warming had human causes, my Reason colleague Ron Bailey has reported, ExxonMobil started warning investors that both climate change and the policies it spawned posed a risk to its business. It also switched from opposing climate change action to supporting a carbon tax.

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